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Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics

Wendy Brown
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Edgeworkbrings together seven of Wendy Brown's most provocative recent essays in political and cultural theory. They range from explorations of politics post-9/11 to critical reflections on the academic norms governing feminist studies and political theory.Edgeworkis also concerned with the intellectual and political value of critique itself. It renders contemporary the ancient jurisprudential meaning of critique as krisis, in which a tear in the fabric of justice becomes the occasion of a public sifting or thoughtfulness, the development of criteria for judgment, and the inauguration of political renewal or restoration. Each essay probes a contemporary problem--the charge of being unpatriotic for dissenting from U.S. foreign policy, the erosion of liberal democracy by neoliberal political rationality, feminism's loss of a revolutionary horizon--and seeks to grasp the intellectual impasse the problem signals as well as the political incitement it may harbor.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2687-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. ONE Untimeliness and Punctuality: Critical Theory in Dark Times
    (pp. 1-16)

    This essay reflects on timeliness and untimeliness in critical political theory. It works outside the intellectual circuits through which both problems are conventionally routed—those offered by Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, and the Frankfurt School—in order to feature aspects of the relationship between political time and critique overshadowed by these traditions of thought. Foucault once defined critique as “the art of not being governed quite so much,”¹ and these reflections might be taken in the spirit of a refusal to be governed quite so much by critical theory’s traditional intellectual signposts. They accord, too, with Benjamin’s counsel to “wrest tradition...

  5. TWO Political Idealization and Its Discontents
    (pp. 17-36)

    What is political love and what is the relationship of political love and political loyalty? If one loves a political community, does such love require uncritical solidarity with certain elements of that community, and if so, with which elements—its laws, its principles, its state institutions, its leaders, or actions taken in its name? What kind of loyalty does political love engender and require, to what extent is love compatible with critique, and to what extent is critique compatible with loyalty? What counterintuitive compatibility might be discerned between critique and fealty, between critique and attachment, even between critique and love?...

  6. THREE Neoliberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy
    (pp. 37-59)

    It is commonplace to speak of the present regime in the United States as a neoconservative one, and to cast as a consolidated “neocon” project present efforts to intensify U.S. military capacity, increase U.S. global hegemony, dismantle the welfare state, retrench civil liberties, eliminate the right to abortion and affirmative action, re-Christianize the state, deregulate corporations, gut environmental protections, reverse progressive taxation, reduce education spending while increasing prison budgets, and feather the nests of the rich while criminalizing the poor. I do not contest the existence of a religious-political project known as neoconservatism or challenge the appropriateness of understanding many...

  7. FOUR At the Edge: The Future of Political Theory
    (pp. 60-82)

    Contemporary critical theory teaches that identity is created through borders and oppositions. The outside constructs the inside and then hides this work of fabrication in an entity that appears to give birth to itself. Thus to inquire “What is political theory?” is to ask about its constitutive outside as well as its techniques of dissimulating this constitution. What does political theory position itself against and by what discursive means? What does it imagine itself not to be, to be different from? What epistemological, stylistic, and ontological conceits denote its significant others, its scenes of alterity?

    Explicit answers to these questions...

  8. FIVE Freedom’s Silences
    (pp. 83-97)

    Hegel rendered philosophical what the ancient Athenian elites had struggled with existentially and tragically: if freedom inheres in the capacity to choose a course of action, then it is simultaneously realized and negated in the very act of choosing. Commitment to a particular course of action forecloses the freedom that enabled the commitment. In this regard, freedom is not merely paradoxical in its workings but self-canceling and, finally, unachievable. Hence Foucault’s warning that freedom lies neither in institutions nor in ideals and proclamations, but only in practices.

    As freedom is both realized and negated by choice, so is silence convened,...

  9. SIX Feminism Unbound: Revolution, Mourning, Politics
    (pp. 98-115)

    We are convened in Belfast to ask what women’s studies is, what feminism might be, “beyond sex and gender.”¹ This beyond is a strange place, if it is indeed a place, where it is proposed that the subject and object of the field might be left behind even as the field persists. It is a place where the “what” and the “we” of feminist scholarly work is so undecided or so disseminated that it can no longer bound such work, where the identity that bore women’s studies into being has dissolved yet oddly has not dissolved the field itself. Or...

  10. SEVEN The Impossibility of Women’s Studies
    (pp. 116-136)

    There is today enough retrospective analysis and harangue concerning the field of women’s studies to raise the question of whether dusk on its epoch has arrived, even if nothing approaching Minerva’s wisdom has yet emerged. Consider the public arguments about its value and direction over the past half decade: Is it rigorous? Scholarly? Quasi-religious? Doctrinaire? Is it anti-intellectual and too political? Overly theoretical and insufficiently political? Does it mass-produce victims instead of heroines, losers instead of winners? Or does it turn out jargon-speaking metaphysicians who have lost all concern with Real Women? Has it become unmoored from its founding principles?...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 137-154)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 155-159)